Season 1, Episode 2: Getting a Harvard Education with MOOCs on The Educator’s Companion to PD Podcast (Show Notes)

Season 1, Episode 2: Getting a Harvard Education with MOOCs on The Educator’s Companion to PD Podcast (Show Notes)

I know that a lot of people enjoying reading and skimming through podcast show notes to get a gist of the highlights of the episode. This podcast was originally recorded back in May 2017. To listen to the podcast, please go here.
Today we are going to talk about one of my favorite free learning resources: MOOCs. Spelled M. O. O. C.  Perhaps you have heard of them. But otherwise, you might be thinking, Huh what’s a MOOC? Yep, it’s a real word and it stands for Massive Open Online Course.
Massive means there’s a ton of choice of courses and the opportunity for many people to sign up. In a typical course, maybe 30 students sign up, but here you could literally have hundreds, if not thousands.
Open means that anyone can sign up and take the course, anytime and from anywhere. Its content is unlicensed and is free if you choose to audit it. Otherwise, certification can cost you upwards to 100 USD. In some cases, there are micro-credentials programs, which would cost beyond that, but today we are just focusing on one-off courses.
Online means that all of the learning content happens via the internet. Most of the interaction happens on one platform and in the online forums. Participants sign up and work through the modules, which can be done at any time of the day. The learning is asynchronized and so you needn’t complete work on specific time deadlines and can be very much self-paced.
Course means that it is structured with the intent to develop knowledge and skills. There is a curriculum to work through, complete with class outlines or syllabi that  a participant works through during the class. Oftentimes you can get college credit or certification by completing the course and paying a fee.
Sounds pretty good, right! Yes, it is! And MOOCs are really making it possible for people to be lifelong learners because there is no shortage of courses or programs that one can explore. In fact, they are poised to really disrupt higher education with the focus on competency-based education that emphasizes what students know and are able to do, rather than on how long it takes them to do it. Although I don’t want to really go into how MOOCs are challenging the status quo when it comes to getting degrees, let’s just say that  MOOCs are evolving and creating “micro Masters” programs so that one can really uplevel their knowledge and skills. So this is really a fantastic time to get on board the MOOC train because you have some fabulous professional development from high-quality universities.

So although there are many MOOC providers, I want to explore a few of them that have relevant courses for educators.
1. EdX: Courses are offered by well-known universities like MIT, Harvard University, Boston University, UC Berkeley, Kyoto University, Australian National University, University of Adelaide, University of Queensland, IIT Bombay, IIM Bangalore, Dartmouth College, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Curtin University.  You can learn anything from Design thinking to strategies for inquiry-based learning to Big Data and education. There’s no shortage of interesting and relevant courses that you can take so that you can become more informed and innovative in your classroom.
2. The next one is Cousera. Courses here are offered by universities such as Stanford University, Princeton University, Arizona State University, University of Maryland College Park, Yale and Duke Universities. Here you can learn about topics such as emerging trends and technology for virtual classrooms, music in the 21st-century classroom, autism spectrum disorder, digital storytelling, copyright for teachers and librarians. The list goes on.
3. My 3rd favorite MOOC provider is FutureLearn and most of these universities hail from the UK such as the University of Birmingham, University of Edinburgh, King’s College London, University of Leicester, University of Reading, Open University, University of Southampton.  There you can explore topics such as Assessment for Learning in STEM teaching, Mindfulness, Dyslexia and foreign language teaching, science writing, Getting a grip on mathematical symbolism, learning how to code, and social well-being. Again, a plethora of choices.
4. Another great MOOC provider is Open2Study which offers courses from a mulititude of Australian universities such as James Cook University, Griffith University, University of Wollongong, Flinders University, RMIT University, Central Institute of Technology, Sydney Institute, University of Western Sydney, Polytechnic West, Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Newcastle, Jordan University of Science and Technology, University of Tasmania, International College of Management, Sydney, Massey University. There you can explore topics such as Early Childhood teaching, Sports and recreation management, the Human Body as a Machine, Education in a Changing World, Foundations in Psychology, the Art of Photography, and World Music. Again, a multitude of topics to pique your interest.
5. Lastly, I want to speak about the Canvas Network whose courses are made from a network of American universities based in Utah. You can take courses about digital tools for K-12 educators, art appreciation, chemistry, grammar, educating girls, digital citizenship. and economics. One of my favorite courses I’ve ever taken, and probably the one that hooked me into taking MOOCs was offered by then. It was about becoming more creative.
There are more MOOC providers but these are my top picks for educators. Since you have figured out your learning goal already and know what topics you want to explore, you can easily browse on any of these sites to find courses that would match your professional interest. Complete one course at a time. It’s tempting to sign up for 10, but stay focused. Most courses will tell you how long it will take to complete, with roughly 2-4 hours a week being an average.
 Now I’d like to do a segment that I am calling the 3/2/1. 3 pros of this of the resource. 2 Cons and 1 idea to help you succeed.
3 pros of this resource:
  1. These are high-quality courses, nearly the equivalent of a college class.
  2. You can participate at any time or as much or as little as you want, so your level of engagement is defined by you.
  3. You can explore a variety of perspectives on an educational topic, or gain timely content knowledge that you can use in your lesson plans.
2 Cons
  1. Since these classes aren’t going toward a degree, courses aren’t usually offered over and over again as they might in a traditional college with its semesters. If you missed the sign-up date, there’s a chance you can still access an archived version of the course, but it just depends on how it was set up.
  2. On some MOOC sites, they are really pushing that you pay for the courses. For example, on Cousera, you have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the sign-up page before you see an “audit this class for free” button.  If you need continuing education credits for your teaching license certification, then you have to pay for it. So that’s the caveat on this, however, if you want to enroll in the class for free, you can always upgrade and pay for it later to get credits towards your certification and the price is rarely more than 50 USD. So I might suggest that you sign up and see your willing to see this class to the end before I make the investment in it if you need professional development certification credits.
1-Idea for success
  1. There are a ton of interesting subjects being explored via MOOCs. Before signing up for a MOOC, look back at your goal–is this course really in alignment with what you’re trying to accomplish? Read through the syllabi to ensure that it’s covering topics that will move you towards accomplishing your goal. Looking through the syllabus carefully will also help you to make sure that you have the prerequisite skills for completing it. For example, I signed up for a Robotics MOOC and then later I found out that I had to take a pre-test that tested my knowledge of Linear Algebra. Since it’s been ages since I took higher math, I went over to Khan Academy to reteach myself. When I did that, I realized that I would really need to invest more time in getting the prerequisite skills to do the MOOC. So I re-examined why I wanted to take the course and decided that my time invested in this course wouldn’t really help me become a better teacher, hence I dropped the course.

Hopefully, this overview was helpful and got you thinking about how you can deepen your knowledge of current and important pedagogy without spending loads of money. If you have any other MOOC providers that you also feel are worthy of notice, then comment below. Thanks!

The 14 Gifts of Design Thinking

The 14 Gifts of Design Thinking

Last month I finished up the MITX Design Thinking for Leading and Learning course, and I’m still assimilating the profundity of these ideas and the impact they can have in classrooms. It’s actually really hard for me to articulate since I’m in the midst of a paradigm shift as ideas are colliding between developing empathy, creativity, and critical thinking in students. It’s been a “perfect storm” in my mind and I’m still trying to erase my former notions about design as a cycle instead of it as a creative process–which was probably my key take away. When I learned about how schools of poverty and underachievement are transformed by using it, I was impressed, to say mildly.  And I have been chewing on how this is possible when it occurred to me that it wasn’t all the great knowledge that was gained, it was the mindset that was cultivated. In particular, it made me think about the work of Brene Brown and her research on shame and vulnerability.

The REVOLUTION will not be televised. It will be in your classroom! You are working on the hardest edges of love.

Do not ever question the power you have with the people you teach!

Learning is inherently vulnerable and it’s like you got a classroom full of turtles without shells.  The minute they put their shells back on, they are protected–from their peers, from their teachers, from whoever–no learning can come in…so we really have to develop ‘shame resilent’ classrooms.

-Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly

I agree with Brene Brown about developing “shame resilience” and have found the usual tug of war between with teaching and mistake making diminishes when we introduce students to a mindset in which they appreciate the importance of recognizing our errors and strive for constant improvement. When I think about design thinking, I believe it could beinnovation a powerful way for students to experience their vulnerability and develop perspective taking, all the while creating real cool stuff–whether it is a piece of writing, a t-shirt, a rollercoaster, an app or, in my Early Year’s classroom, a garden. They learn how to fail forward and create another prototype. This design sprint is not a destructive but constructive element because, although they spent a lot of time developing their idea, the focus shifts from the product itself to the user–who will reap the benefits of this redesign. It gets the kids to detach from what they are making to who they are making it for. This nuance has a relatively big impact on the process of improvement.

So, it’s been in the midst of implementing it at a deeper level, that I had a moment of clarity in which I connected Brown’s ideas to that of design-thinking. Design-based learning creates a space in your classroom in which different “gifts” from the students’ learning can emerge:

  1. Love Of Ideas
  2. Belonging (in their collaborative groups)
  3. The Joy of creating something and learning new ideas.
  4. Courage to try new things
  5. Problem-finding by thinking future forward and considering what the possible issues might be with their design.
  6. Innovation by using different strategies and materials to solve a challenge.
  7. Ethical decision making by considering the different perspectives and considering if their solutions will be harmful to the environment or hurtful to others.
  8. Trust in each other and themselves
  9. Empathy for the users.
  10. Accountability to finish the job
  11. Flexibility with our time table and dealing with challenges.
  12. Creativity in designing.
  13. Listening to Feedback from others
  14. Hard conversations with each other

As my class is still in the midst of this design-based unit, I continue to be fascinated by their growth as the process reveals another level of their thinking and feeling about issues and ideas related to our current unit. I’m enjoying observing this process and love how it fits so well with the inquiry-based learning model of the Primary Years Programme (PYP). I definitely look forward to implementing this approach in future.

I’m wondering if others who have more experience with design thinking would agree with the “gifts” and/or add different ones to the list. Please share. I’m genuinely interested in your perspective.

Eat, Sleep and Learn: In A State of Perpetual Practice

Eat, Sleep and Learn: In A State of Perpetual Practice

Practice is a kind of severe devotion… This kind of discipline creates muscle memory, but even more so, this internal sensitivity andfamiliarity with the craft opens up and sparks invention and improvisation. Any kind of regular practice makes way for discovery and subtlety, and imaginative nuance will follow. -Gail  Swanlund-

I’m starting a new unit: How We Express Ourselves- We appreciate both the patterns that occur in the natural world and the ones that we create. During my first week of pre-assessment my mind says “No, no, no–these plastic toys and manipulatives, they are eye catching and helping them to develop the concept of pattern, but I want them to observe the natural world and get inspired by the lines, shapes, and colors they see!”

I can’t begin to tell you how mixed my emotions were–most of my students are on target, as they seem to understand the basics, copying, extending  and creating models, but this unit is supposed to be about the appreciation of the aesthetic, I have to dig digger and find ways to induce a state of curiosity and wonder in order to develop creativity and expose the limits of their imagination!!

If any early years teachers accustomed to teaching 3-5 years old were to look at these photos, they would be content with the approximations and, in some cases, clear understandings of the concept of pattern in our first week of our unit.  I think these learning tools are excellent ways to develop the structure of how we can manipulate shape and color, and it also gives them practice at creating repetition in forming patterns. However, as much as I love these little people’s effort, I know if I am to continue in this vein for this unit, I am totally missing the mark of the transdisciplinary theme.

I grabbed my laminated line drawing cards and dragged our lovely art teacher into my room to help me think about my classroom design and how I can organically teach pattern in lessons. I knew as soon as I began collaborating, I was out of my depth–I am not an artist, or at least that is how I perceive myself. (God help me when I sit down with the music teacher.) Panic began to set in….

So I  have begun to convert my classroom into different “environments”. One will be “water world”, “forest world” and “human world”, respectively.  And, if I was to really nail this unit, I was going to have to work on developing my craft so I could faithfully explore the idea of the aesthetic so the kids would demonstrate higher forms of creativity and irules-coritanventiveness.

With that in mind, I have decided to embark upon a learning journey, to jump into this inquiry as if I was the student and not necessarily the teacher. I’ve signed myself up for an Introduction to Image Making MOOC  from a graphic design perspective, and start to explore how I can incorporate some of these class assignments into my classroom. As I think about this endeavor the “rules” by Sister Corita Kent really speaks to how I can approach areas of my practice which are not as I am no as comfortable and familiar with.

Since I have decided to use the context of different environments to observe patterns, I have begun to consider how I might devise different provocations in which we can look at animals and their markings. Here are just a few ideas I have for the unit during our exploration and finding out phase of the inquiry.

  • Animal tails: I was thinking about a “cover and peek” activity. Using some of the language from the Visible Thinking strategy, I See, I Think, I Wonder, we can look at pictures of animals with only their tails showing. Later, the students would be offered the use of materials like string and felt to create wavy, spotted and swirly tails.
  • Thunderstorm: I was thinking of listening to sounds of different types of storms and have the students give me words to describe what they hear.
    • Then I would give them some instruments and let them try to model what they hear. Later I would offer some drums, but I was thinking that I might cover the drum with some white paper and tape some different color crayons on it. In that way, when they are making their sounds, there would be markings on the paper.
    • Also, I plan on offering the colored water and droppers. I  was thinking that we could make rain drops using those materials, and they could watch the concentric circles form, as they drop the colored water into a tub of clear water.

These are just a couple of ideas that I was inspired with after 1 week from that MOOC. The longer I teach, the more I come to understand how important to do things that stretch me so that I not only cultivate a classroom rich in learning but that I model the growth mindset in my classroom–even if these ideas fail, at least I developed some opportunities to show the creative process over product. I want to endeavor to experience this inquiry as a participant, as much as I am the facilitator, so I am equally excited about what the students will come up with once the reins are taken off their imagination.

My Quest to be a Know-It-All

My Quest to be a Know-It-All

Professional Development is something that I take seriously, and I am constantly researching about the latest developments in education and I am eager to share with my colleagues what I have learned. When I’m not reading, I’m engaging in Educational “Hangouts” or Twitter chats. I love MOOCs and take at least 3 a year.

I have highlighted just some of my professional development that I have formally received.

Professional Development that I have attended:

  • Introduction to the Primary Years Programme Curriculum Model (International Baccalaureate)
  •  Teaching and Learning (International Baccalaureate)
  • 3-5 Year Olds (International Baccalaureate)
  • Role of the Coordinator (International Baccalaureate)
  • Differentiated Instruction (Staff Development for Educators)
  • Digital Learning (Intel Teach to the Future Program)
  • Structured English Immersion (Arizona State University)
  • Systematic Change in Reading  (Arizona Department of Education)
  • Conceptual Based Learning in Math (Math and Science Partnership Grant, University of Arizona)
  • Enhancing Creativity (University of Phoenix)

I also have an IB Webinar Pass and frequently listen and learn from new and archived webinars, as well as IB conference talks on iTunes. As a member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), I regularly attend webinars and online courses offered on topics such as formative assessment, managing differentiation, and creating high quality units.

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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